Three Pastors Tried Banning Books from a Maine Library’s “Banned Books” Display September 18, 2018

Three Pastors Tried Banning Books from a Maine Library’s “Banned Books” Display

Banned Books Week is fast approaching and the Rumford Public Library in Maine is celebrating with a display of books that different groups don’t want you to read. The display includes The Kite Runner (for sexually explicit content), To Kill a Mockingbird (for sexually explicit content), and Fifty Shades of Grey (for an attempt at sexually explicit content).

As with all of these kinds of display, it’s a reminder of the importance of the “freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”

Last week, however, the library received a letter from three pastors arguing that the display itself needed to be banned because it was bad for children. Talk about missing the point…

Dan Pearson of the Rumford Baptist Church, Justin Thacker of the Praise Assembly of God, and Fr. Nathan March of the Parish of the Holy Savior made a few points as to why the display was bad for children:

1) Children should not be subjected to an early sexualization. The topics and images presented on this table are therefore not appropriate for a public area where children are present. This until recently has been considered not only inappropriate but the abuse of children.

They’re referring to a book that treat a same-sex crush just like an opposite sex one, and a graphic novel that tells the story of being a lesbian in a society where that’s frowned upon. That’s not “sexualization.” That sure as hell isn’t abusive. That’s brutal honesty depicting very real feelings that many gays and lesbians will tell you they’ve dealt with themselves. Simply put, just because the subject matter is homosexuality doesn’t mean a book is sexual, just as a book that includes a romantic subplot isn’t automatically a piece of erotica.

The people who show kids pictures of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden ought to realize that.

2) There are many political and religious views represented in our community. The library should not be promoting a far left political view that sees homosexuality as acceptable and to be promoted over and against a conservative and traditional view that sees homosexuality as wrong and to be avoided. I believe that there are many who hold this traditional view in our area who deserve not to have these other views which are offensive to them thrust in their face in a library that should be neutral in its political views.

This is modern religion for you: Books that promote love and tolerance and acceptance are somehow seen as inherently anti-Christian. If you’re offended by the mere existence of LGBTQ people — and authors who tell their stories — maybe going out in public isn’t really for you.

That said, I think it would actually make a lot of sense to include a Bible in that display. No doubt holy books have been banned in various places throughout history and the Bible is as controversial as anything else on that table.

3) The library we feel should be sensitive to those of religions that find certain material offensive. Both the traditional biblical Christian and moderate Muslim religions find homosexuality offensive and against their beliefs. It is fine to have a variety of books on the shelves, But as traditional biblical Christians we are convinced that if we had a Muslim community living here they also would be highly offended by the displays promoting homosexuality in the manner that this table did.

This one’s just dumb. They’re mad at the Banned Books display because it might offend people. That’s the whole point! People are going to be upset by these books. People have been upset by these books. All the more reason to read what some people would rather keep away from you.

It’s also rich for these Christians to say they’re just looking out for their Muslim friends. Who apparently don’t exist in their community. But if they did, they’d be really upset!

Think of the Muslims, said the Christians who are almost always the only ones fighting for censorship.

4) The community should have some say in what they want in the library. We believe that many in this community would be concerned about the book that had the two naked women on the cover as being immodest and inappropriate for a pubic [sic] setting such as a public display in the library. The library is not to be an adult book store, but a family resource. As a part of this community we are calling upon the administration of the library to have a high standard of providing and displaying books and resources that are high quality and promote high moral standards, especially where children are concerned.

“Pubic” setting. They didn’t even proofread the damn letter for the most obvious typo…

And no, the community shouldn’t get to pick which books are available or on display. A library shouldn’t be run by popular vote. It’s a resource for everyone. Librarians have standards for which books are kept on the shelves, but their moral worth isn’t part of the calculation.

“High moral standards,” of course, are different for different people. I happen to think treating LGBTQ people with dignity and respect is moral. The pastors clearly don’t want them to have equal rights and they don’t even want LGBTQ children acknowledging or understanding themselves. But unlike them, I’m not arguing that a library shouldn’t keep books I don’t like on the shelves (provided they meet all other standards).

A Catholic priest, by the way, is in no position to lecture anybody else on the importance of promoting “high moral standards.” Neither are pastors who think same-sex marriage is some kind of threat to society.

The good news is that even though the pastors made their cases at the library board’s meeting yesterday (see the video below), the board voted unanimously to keep the display just as it is.

After trustee Chairwoman Carolyn Kennard closed the 105-minute discussion, people slowly began to exit the room. Those who stayed for the next 15 minutes heard trustees Kennard, Jane Shuck, Linda Macgregor, Maureen Cook and Jerrold Cohen vote unanimously to leave the current display intact.

Kennard said, “By moving that (display), it would be a form of censorship that we cannot do, under any circumstance.”

Prior to the meeting, library Director Tamara Butler said she had not acted to take down the display herself because “if anyone reads the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read, we are not to avoid controversial subjects.

“Those books are perfectly appropriate for a banned book display. We did it before, and other libraries do it. The display is to remind people of the freedom to read, lack of censorship … that’s the reason for it,” she said.

Here’s a suggestion: Take that letter from the pastors and frame it. Then put it front and center on the display table so people realize these books weren’t just banned in the past. There are still attempts to ban them now.

At least the library’s board wasn’t swayed by the Christian bigotry and ignorance. Good on them.

(Thanks to Brian for the link)

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